Writing a Will is your opportunity to let your loved ones know what you would like to happen to your worldly goods when you die. However, there a number of common mistakes that could lead to your wishes not being carried out correctly.
Despite the rising number of ‘do-it-yourself’ will-writing services, the laws around Wills are complex. With proper advice, you can avoid the most common pitfalls. After all, no-one wants to accidentally disinherit a loved one, or make their Will invalid.
Whether you already have a Will or it’s on your list of things to do, be sure not to do any of the following:
Misplacing the original Will
When you die, your executors will need to have your original Will in order to legally administer your estate.
Make sure those closest to you know where the original document is kept. Without it, the executors could have problems obtaining a grant of probate to manage your affairs.
Not naming an executor
The role of the executor is to deal with the administration of an estate in accordance with a Will.
Many people forget to name the executors of their Will. However, in such cases, the probate court will appoint an executor and this could be someone who might not have been your first choice. It’s worth noting that you can choose to have more than one executor, and these can be relatives, friends or even a solicitor.
Not having TWO valid witnesses
This is the most common mistake people make and one that will completely invalidate your Will. For a Will to be valid, it must be witnessed by TWO people who:
• Are present at the time of signing.
• Are not named as beneficiaries in your Will, or married to someone who is a beneficiary.
• Are a UK citizen aged 18 years or over.
Making changes to your Will
Any changes you make to your Will after it has been signed and witnessed won’t count.
To make changes that will be legally recognised, you need to make an official alteration called a codicil. A codicil lets you make amendments to your existing Will without the need to completely rewrite the original document.
You can use a codicil to specify small changes to any of the details in your original Will, for example to add a new gift or change your executor. The codicil should be witnessed and signed and you should make sure the original Will and the codicil documents are always kept together.
A codicil does not replace the original Will so if there are major changes, it may be worth making a completely new Will.
Assuming your partner will get half
If you are not married to your partner, regardless of how long you have been together, they are not automatically entitled to anything from your estate – unless it is specifically stated in your Will. If you want to make sure your partner will get what they are entitled to, write a Will.
Assuming you’ll be the first to go
Your Will sets out what should happen when you die, but your partner may pass away first. Consider all the possible outcomes and set out what you would like to see happen in each.
Not making a new Will after getting married or having a child
If you get married, your existing Will automatically becomes invalid.
Under the intestacy rules, if you die, your spouse will be entitled to half (or even all) of your estate, which could potentially disadvantage your children. To ensure your estate will be divided in the way you think best, it’s important you write a new Will every time you marry.
When you have a child, it’s essential to also specify a guardian for your child in your Will should the worst happen.
Forgetting to include intangible assets
We tend to remember the obvious things, like our house and car, to include in a Will, but don’t forget other intangible assets, such as savings accounts, premium bonds, pensions or investments.
Being too specific
Be clear about your wishes, but be mindful that if you include specific assets in your Will, such as a make and model of car, it could soon be out of date. Try to use more general descriptions of assets, for example, ‘the car in my name’.
Not being specific enough about your children
If your Will includes references to ‘my children’, this will not automatically include step-children or foster children, even if you consider them your own. To ensure your step-children or foster children receive the inheritance you want to give them, be explicit about how you mention them in your Will.
Legally adopted children are considered the same as your biological children.
Not giving a reason for disinheriting
If you intend to leave a dependent out of your Will, they could successfully contest the Will unless you clearly state the reason for doing so and where you would like your money to go instead.
Lacking full capacity
For your Will to be legal, you must be of sound mind when you make it. The validity of your Will could be contested after you pass away if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when it was made.